Friday, June 1, 2007


May 31, 2007 (Gadfly News): According to an anonymous source at the NYC Department of Education, a group of Tweed staffers today requested a meeting with Chancellor Joel I. Klein at which they suggested that he get help for two behaviors they consider to be obsessive – adding testing dates for NYC students and overhauling the structure of the school system. “We kind of had an intervention,” reported the source. “There were ten of us in on it. We sort of told him Joel that we needed to meet with him about something else entirely – the low response rate on the parent surveys – so he was all keen to talk to us. Then we just closed the door and laid it on the line.”

According to the source, the group of ten had been planning the intervention for the past few months. “There was an elephant in the living room, that our chancellor has a problem,” said the source. “But no one was acknowledging it in any way.” The source reported that he himself had started attending a 12-step support group on his lunch hour, “because Joel’s behavior was affecting me – not to mention our city’s students and schools.” The first time the staffer attended a meeting, he saw co-workers there. “It was an Al-Anon meeting, so I figured they were there for alcoholic spouses or something," he said. "But then one of them started to share about his ‘boss,’ and I broke down crying. Finally, someone was confirming, ‘Yes, there is a problem here. The guy just can’t stop.’”

Before the group confronted the chancellor, they made a list of behaviors they thought demonstrated the problem. “There were warning signs all along,” said the staffer. “Like the 37 and a half minutes. The year he instituted that, it was in February, the middle of the school year. That was crazy, and we told him so at the time. All the schools, all the families, already had their schedules set. But then he did the same thing again this year, changing all the bus routes around – in winter! We want to show Joel that there’s a pattern to his behavior, that it’s become irrational.”

The list the group presented to the chancellor was extensive, according to the source. “We just went through and documented everything. On such and such a date, you reorganized the districts into regions. On such and such a date, you then dismantled the regions. And with the tests, too. We documented every single time he had added a new test.”

Asked how Chancellor Klein reacted to the intervention, the source sighed. “Not well,” he said. “He started screaming, totally wildly, that this would affect our grade. Someone put in an emergency call to the mayor because we thought he would help us. But when Mike arrived, he sided with Joel. He might as well have just said, ‘What elephant? Where?’” The source reported that Mayor Bloomberg accused the group of ten of being unduly influenced “by a small group of naysayers, that segment of the city that is always resistant to change.”

Though the intervention did not turn out as planned, the source reported that he has hope. “The guy has got to hit his bottom soon,” he said. "I mean, doesn't he?" The interview ended when the source excused himself to attend another Al-Anon meeting. “My chancellor has become unmanageable,” he said. “But I have to remind myself: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”


Gary Babad said...

What an incredible piece of work! (Your piece, not the Chancellor, though he's certainly a "piece of work" as well). This is one of the best satires I've ever read (or is it one?). Makes me think, as someone in the mental health field, that the man is every therapist's nightmare. Kind of like Bill Murray in "What About Bob". Or he'll be the Britney Spears of the education world. And besides the compulsiveness, there's the utter disregard for the feelings or pain inflicted on others. Not a promising sign diagnostically. Anyhow, keep writing this stuff, I love it!

Jan Carr said...

As I know you yourself have commented, it's hard to parody the DOE when the truth is often more bizarre than fiction. But it helps to laugh, and as I've realized from your pieces, the barbs help point up the absurdity of the situation. And on the subject of Klein's "obsessive reoganization disorder," maybe some parents could get together and do an intervention???? And I'm sure we could interest some principals and teachers...

Anonymous said...

I've been laughing till I'm crying - so funny - thanks alot - great to have a little humor in this crazy situation!

Leonie Haimson said...

We now have two of the best parodists working on any blog -- or any publication for that matter -- in the country.

To Jan and Gary -- a toast!